Kickstarter and really all crowdfunding in general are meant to be paths to production, a means for startups anywhere to secure capital and begin building a brand.
In a market-economy it would make sense for supply and demand, production and consumption to be pretty well balanced. When consumers want something cool, companies crop up everywhere to make it happen. Economics 101 at work. But what happens when actions seemingly skirt these tried and true tendencies?
The Wonderful Wallet
Throughout the history of humanity, as trade and commerce have prospered people have used forms of currency to acquire that which they needed and wanted to survive. Modern billfolds(wallets) which carry the vast majority of cash today came into being sometime around the 19th century and over the years as credit cards grew to prominence forced card slot cut outs to be added to these efficient currency carrying devices.
Since then almost nothing has changed in the world of manufacturing and making wallets. They remain a simple staple in most every modern male’s attire and even have more feminized versions ladies carry in their purses. So why is every other Kickstarter design campaign you see funding and raising ridiculous amounts of money some minimalist money carrying device promising to change the world? Is there really that much demand for the dreadfully dull wallet?
Benefits vs Features
Minimalism is the ideal example of selling a lifestyle versus offering a product. And it is an important and very powerful distinction. Most entrepreneurs, inventors and businessmen find themselves fighting a failing battle. They try and try without success to make product features, facts and figures seem important and worthy of sales. They pitch the product like a tech specs sheet with 0-60 times, processor speeds and UV protection levels rather than attacking the heart of the issue, the true reason someone is searching for and desiring a product.
Minimalism has no features. That is its appeal. Kickstarter creators familiar with the minimalist trends are trying to de-clutter and relax lives by eliminating waste and unwanted access. That is the pitch people are responding too. With overwhelming wallets, insane collections of credit cards and inordinate numbers of old and unwanted receipts guys everywhere are responding to the promise of simplified living.
The Impossible Promise
This is simply treating the symptom as opposed to the cause, the most common of human errors. Really the irony of buying a product to save yourself from overconsumption and excess items is pretty funny in and of itself.
It presents a problem however. Most of these individuals will ultimately fail in their pursuits for simplifying themselves. Rather than becoming powerful champions of change, backers able to embark upon and support the companies creating the inordinate number of minimalist products they will likely turn away from their lofty ideals. Instead of changing behaviour many minimalist wallet backers are only indulging a whim, an impulse buy which strengthens startups starts but does nothing to power post-Kickstarter success.
Lack of Loyalty
I’m not a self-proclaimed minimalist myself but as a very unmaterialistic guy myself the business of minimalism seems challenging at best. Premises built upon avoiding opulence, simple simplicity and a lack of brand focus feel entirely at odds with the idea of building a business.
When you back a minimalism wallet, buy a no-name apparently brandless shirt or can’t tell where something was made do you often feel a brand bond with the product? Are you more likely to strengthen and support the company and the mission of the brand by buying from them in the future? Of course not.
This effect is amplified ten-fold when you consider the sea of simple, life-improving wallets available on Kickstarter. Its as if everyone and their brother is in on this fad. What if anything makes the product, the company, the experience anything but generic?
Fading of Fads
Kickstarter is a cool and artsy, amazingly design focused hipster realm for creating and launching new and exciting products and creations. But what happens as more and more individuals crowd out the space with same stuff? Ultimately these items and ideas become bastardized. A once cool and creative take on simplified living quickly cascades to become something else entirely.
As more and more minimalist wallets or whatever product you wish to consider flood the markets they quickly lose the coolness that first created the fads to begin with. Early adopters upset with the destruction of their hip styles and creative trends will run first from the more mainstream, much lamer creations of copycat competitors while the less than cool kids flock to the falling trends in an effort to be like their innovative and outgoing counterparts. It’s the cycle of creation and destruction most trends and fads fall victim to in the end. Scarcity sells and overabundance is anything but exciting.
Fight or Flight?
So as a product creator what does this mean for you? Are trends, fads and the latest fashions death traps or paths to profit?
In order to really consider creating a product, service or invention you must always consider the market. Are competitors and rival products few and far between or overwhelmingly abundant? Too many and you risk capsizing in the wild seas, too few and your treasure map may have led you awry.
Unfortunately analyzing the market, investigating Kickstarter or any commerce platform is a pretty tough task. I for one have mistakenly mucked up the process twice in ecommerce and believe it takes both research and instincts to survive and thrive.
For crowdfunding in particular it is increasingly easy to analyze the market. Everything is available in the simple search engines of Indiegogo and Kickstarter to scour the sites and find the successes and failures of similar products.
First the worst, second the best, third is the one with the hairy chest…
Yup we just went there with childhood rhymes and reason to power brand building. But it is such a universally applicable adage I cannot not help but use it.
Think figuratively. Typically with revolutionary technologies and products the first is very rarely the foremost and is often met with suspicion and challenging in roads into the hearts of consumers. From Friendster, Netscape, the first MP3 players and a bajillion other early inventions and ideas it often isn’t best to be first. 2nd generation versions and competition come in as markets begin to accelerate and accept the technology and dominate the industry.
These are the wild west day of the gold rush. The first and second waves of designs, deviations and creations will almost always be the most successful. Get in on the game here or prefer to pass. During this war for the hearts of consumers everywhere small differences and accelerated traction trend more towards success than starting times.
So what does all this mean? It means you best not be too fashionably late. Kickstarters launching late in the game may well make it. Campaigns can ride the waves that work and start short term success in this manner. Ultimately though the hairy chested hop-aboarders won’t get far. Few followers are ever able to lead the pack. Fewer still stand strong and defeat the current market leader.
Buck the Trend. Be Different.
So if you’re contemplating creating a Kickstarter, bringing a product to market or manufacturing your own make sure you do your research. Trends are trendy. They’re sexy for a reason but often aren’t all you hoped for. Whether as a consumer or creator consider what you are buying or building? What is the true purpose? How will you add value, differentiate, be original? These are the questions hipsters, the early adopters and the creators of fads feel.
What is your Unique Sexy Proposition?